tv QA CSPAN August 16, 2015 8:00pm-9:01pm EDT
c-span, author phyllis bennis. and the iowa state fair this week on q1 day, institute for-- on q and a, institute studies, phyllis bennis. phyllis bennis, how would you describe what you do for a living? phyllis: i get to work my passion, which is working as a public scholar. againstit means working
wars and occupation and bad foreign policy, mostly by our own government. what does it mean day-to-day? i write stuff, i speak, i talk to people. >> who pays you? phyllis: i work for the institute of policy studies. it's been around since the early 60's. we raise money probably from foundations and probably from individuals and we don't take any government money or corporate money. >> when people give you money, what do they want from you? phyllis: usually what they want is access to information. isis has been a good example. who is isis? the reason i wrote a book about isis was because the book kept asking me where can i get some basic stuff? i don't need to be in next bird. i only need to be -- i only need basic step in -- basic stuff. we cannot rely on mainstream
media the way we used to be able to rely on it. the internet provides a huge amount of information but sorting through it, it is hard to know what is reliable and what is shady stuff. so you go to people that you trust and you share your views, maybe about the way to change the world is to build vague social movements against war, inequality, racism. ips over the years has worked with all those movements. i think that is what people want. when did the media give you what you wanted? phyllis: i'm not sure that is true. when i was a kid, everybody trusted walter concha right -- walter cronkite. he was condemned after he criticized the war and we -- the war in vietnam. it's not about trusting individual journalists.
hard, tried toy do their best, but it is a system that doesn't work area well. it is owned by john corporations also own a lot of war industries. is have a major network that owned by the same corporation that owns general electric, which is one of the big military contractors. that can't help but affect how they cover wars in the use of those military goods. brian: they did get out of it. they sold it. phyllis: eventually. ryan: let's go to -- brian: was go to your book. let's go to your book. "understanding isis in ."e new global war on terror" what is the difference between a sunni and a sheer? phyllis: it is a good question, although i don't know that is
the most important question to understand the complex situation we deal with. it goes back to the seventh century, the prophet mohammed. all the insxpert on and outs of the ideologically. over whos an argument should take over after the prophet died. some said it should be a direct family. another said it should be the closest person working with him and should continue that line. that was the beginning of the split. it doesn't really matter. the actual theological differences are not as important as the political consequences of those differences. among other things, when you look at the civil war in syria, which is now seven separate wars that are all been fought to the last syrian, one of those wars is a power struggle in the region for who is going to be the regional power between saudi arabia and iran. another is a sectarian war between sunni and shia. and that also was saudi arabia
and iran and some of the other forces in the region that they support in syria and elsewhere on opposite sides. so it becomes a political struggle as much as a religious struggle. brian: so how much of what we have seen happen in the last 18 years would we -- would be happening if there wasn't this split between the sunnis and the shia? phyllis: i think all of it would still be happening. it might look a different, but i think the origins of all of this sartorial with the search for power, for military bases, for foreign occupations of a number of sorts. i think all of those things are far more important than the sunni-shia divide in actually creating the split and the problems in the region. brian: since you have had this book on the market, " understanding isis any new global war on terror," what is the reaction you have gotten from people who have read it? phyllis: the book has only been
out for a few weeks so i haven't gotten too much response yet. it is probably similar to the response to articles that are right, which is basically, boy, do i need to know all this? do i need to know this detail? and i say, absolutely not. that's why the book is a separate frugally asked questions were people can stick around and just read a few -- separate frequently asked questions where people can stick around i just read a few. it is as much to understand who is isis. what are their origins? what do they believe? why are they so violent? i describe all those things. but what is the u.s. policy regarding isis? why isn't it working? can we really go to war against terrorism? are we doing war wrong or is it wrong to say there should be a all?gainst terrorism at
those are the questions that in some ways are the most important and will be the most useful for people who pick up the book. brian: the isis folks have turned out to be pretty good with video and audio. phyllis: i think so. brian: people that know more about it than i do say they are well produced. we have seen some of this before but just set up the feeling that you have when you see the isis group and then have you come back and expense of a this. [video clip] >> i call on my friends, family and loved ones to rise up against the real killers, the u.s. government. for what will happen to me is a result of their complacency criminology. a message to my beloved parents. save me some dignity. don't accept any meager compensation for my death from the same people who effectively hit the last nail on my cop and with their -- on mike coffman in
their recent -- on my coffin in a recent aerial attack. >> you have been in the forefront of the islamic state. way tofor out of your interfere. your military has caused casualties. you are no longer fighting an insurgency. we are an islamic army and a state that has been accepted by a large number of muslims worldwide. brian: what do you think of what you saw? phyllis: horrifying. it is absolutely horrifying. their ability to bring that image show up close and personal is what makes it so horrific. the reality is, if you compare the numbers of people isis has killed to the numbers of people killed in the u.s. occupation of iraq, the war in afghanistan, it doesn't come close. but that isn't the only comparison you can make.
when it is this up close and personal, it has a very specific human affect. even because i know what comes, even if i don't watch it. i think most people do. but there is a reason for putting this kind of horrifying reality on video and showing it to people. and it showed power makes them look powerful and strong. are clearly some people attracted to that kind of a violence. thankfully, not very many. and third, perhaps the most important, is this is what drives what we used to call the cnn factor. maybe it should be called the twitter factor. of news and policy. it outrageous people. and when people are outraged, they demand that the government do something. and the something, unfortunately, is almost always military. so it drives a policy of responding to this kind of horrific act with war. which doesn't work.
kills far more people than it prevents being killed. and puts us in the position of being the world's oppressor to so many people are on the world. but this is so often the decision because there is no good alternative that are considered politically viable. it may be viable in terms of doing a job, but not politically viable because it doesn't look powerful enough. and by creating this kind of outrage, these actions, these horrific torture videos, the killing, the beheadings, the burning, this pushes people to demand their governments go to work -- go to war over there. which is what isis wants. they want our troops over there to be targets. they don't want isis to come here. and mostno evidence intelligence officials have said that, there is no evidence that they are looking to create a
terror action in the united states. their goal is to create, what he just said, a state, an islamic , in territoryhate that we once knew as part of iraq and part of syria. and it is a very specific and a very local struggle. brian: here is a map that is provided by the military. it shows where the strikes have been. it is beth in syria on top and down below in iraq. and you say that's -- those strikes don't have any impact. phyllis: i think certain strikes will have an impact on certain times. i am not saying there is no effect at all. but the idea that we can somehow on terrorism out of existence simply is a fallacy. you don't bomb terrorism. you bomb people. you bomb countries. you bomb cities. you may hit some terrorists. and for everyone that you kill, you are creating new enemies in their sons, their daughters come
other children, their tribe, the religion, their village, the city, their country. i think when we ignore that -- we know that. policymakers will admit that if you asked them about it. but it doesn't seem to change the fact that come as often as we hear president obama say there is no military solution, what we see is military action after military action. so any specific airstrike might get the right person. more often, it is not. but even if it does, the consequences of that right action -- it got the person it was aiming at -- that person may have been turned in for a bounty. they mean a be the right person at all. if they are, they still have a family. they have children. they have a wife. they have daughters. they have sons. they have people who live with them. people who love them. and when we kill them, chances are there family doesn't think they are a terrorist. particularly because on most all of these strikes hit the ball in their homes or in their cars --
hit people in her homes are in their cars, when they are sleeping or driving or not -- or driving, not when they are actually fighting. so the moment they are killed, they are been a father. they are being a neighbor. and the response is you killed my father. you killed my neighbor. not, thankfully, you killed my terrorist. brian: paul bremmer and president obama made the following comments over the last several years. i want to get your personal reaction to what they both said. [video clip] gentlemen, we got him. [cheers]
president obama: good evening. tonight, i can report to the american people into the world that the united states has conducted an operation that killed osama bin laden, the leader of al qaeda, and a terrorist users possible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women and children. thats nearly 10 years ago a bright september day was darkened by the worst attack on the american people in our history. phyllis: you know, the killing of saddam hussein and the killing of osama bin laden, if we look at it historically, the threatons in iraq, the of terrorism, the actual terrorist attacks have gotten worse, not better since it were killed. so the notion that that somehow is something to cheer about, i saddamember the day that hussein was killed.
i was in jordan. i remember hearing have people it.ed about it was very different from the kind of cheering out as hearing from the united. dates. brian: what did they say? people -- from the united states. brian: what did they say. phyllis: they were not fans of hussein. but since the overthrow of his government, they lost the stability that accompanied the fact that it was a very repressive regime if you did to speak against the government. and that is a serious problem that i don't think u.s. policy makers took into account. there is a sense, because we identify someone as a terrorist and, objectively yes, osama bin laden was a terrorist. saddam hussein not so much. a repressive dictator, yes, but a terrorist, no. our view,hey were, in they were that one thing and that one thing only. for people in the region, people who are closer to them than we are, they are many things.
it is a much more nuanced understanding. we do not understand nuance very well in this country. brian: what about the reaction of president obama? what do you think of him? phyllis: today, i am very proud of president obama for the agreement with iran, which took a lot of political courage. it shouldn't have. there should never have to be political courage to say we support the primacy over war. this was a huge victory for negotiation and diplomacy over war. the fact that president obama had to use political capital and had to be brave is a real terrible statement about the state of our political reality in this country. but he was brave. he was courageous. so i plug him for that. i applaud him -- so i applaud him for that. i applaud him for the moves in cuba. so this last period, i have very proud to have voted for president obama. brian: so why is it brave to
lift sanctions or -- eventually lift sections on cuba -- why is it great to make this decision on iran? phyllis: it shouldn't have to be brave and it should be brave. it should be normal. brian: but you said it is brave. phyllis: brave politically because there is a political price to be paid because of the right wing character of our politics where there are hardline lobbies. lobby, which was really the anti-cuba lobby, the anti-fidel lobby based in miami, who are much meeker these days week as it didn't transfer to the next generation. brian: let me ask you this. he didn't do anything his first term. he is not going to run for an office again. i go back to why is it brave for him to make a decision in the last two years in his presidency that will not have an end -- have an impact on him at all. phyllis: i think in the real world, in this washington bubble
that you and i both live in, there is courage that is required. there shouldn't be. but he is 70 who wants -- he is going to have a political career after the presidency. he will be running for office. but maybe he wants to be -- i don't know what he wants to be. but some of it involves in universities and corporate boards, unfortunately. not criticizing corporations. who knows what he is going to want to but he is going to be a young man wanting to do something useful, something interesting, something challenging. so he doesn't want to completely undermined his own political reputation with his own party, for instance. i wish that we would have a president who said, you know what, i have been elected to do wars, dohings, end what i can to end racism in this country. i am going to do things that my party is what you hate. and that is just the weights were to be. if i don't want a second term, so be it. i wish we had somebody with that
kind of courage. barack obama has not been that president. but we have the president that we have and he has been in this context politically brave in the last immediate period. he has done some pretty terrible things in the last period as well. there have been continuing airstrikes and drone attacks. he has escalated the drone war too far more countries than george bush dreamed of. the fact that he has continued responding to acts of terrorism with war means he is continuing the policy of george w. bush. it was not only a failure. it was in my view a crime. i spoke not too long ago at hofstra university that was hosting the official conference on the presidency of george w. bush. panel, i saidning that i thought george w. bush belonged on trial in the hague for war crimes. i believe that's true. i hope that president obama will do more to distinction himself
from that legacy of his predecessor. brian: back in march -- i want to run a clip of tomaselli, the advisor.nior press he lay down the accomplishments of the bush administration. [video clip] tall, poure poor in in for structure military assets, essential services, mass looting, a lack of -- indigenous secured a forces, the iraq mission also realized a range of success is not sufficiently promoted by the administration and remotely ignored by the media. the training of new iraqi security forces began within weeks of the creation of the cpa, which enabled anybody up to the grade of colonel to reapply to a new professional army. ultimately 80% of the officers armye nco's in the new were from the old army were
better trained, better paid, and better equipped. the currency transitioned to a single stable unit within the first six months. it took us two years to do that and post-world war ii germany. oil production increased. buildings were rebuilt, good hospitals and health care centers. systems are created to facilitate an election in an incredibly challenging and degrading security environment. brian: what do you think of it from a philosophical point? how is it you can think so vastly different? phyllis: i found it interesting that, unlike all of the other conferences on the presidency -- and they have one for every president in history -- this is the only one where the president, the secretary of state, the secretary of defense -- none of them showed up. this is the first time. that's what you have a junior grade pr flack who was on the
lead panel because he was the highest-ranking official they could get. i think that says something about the philosophical basis. there is a reason george bush doesn't want to appear. not just that he doesn't want to debate me. i doubt that was the issue. i think the issue was they don't want to remind people when jeb bush is running for president that his brother was responsible for the devastation of a country. brian: go back to the question i asked about what you think happens to two different human beings, two different groups of people when they think so differently about war and the protection of the american people? phyllis: for me, the single word that is most important is internationalism. i don't think of myself first as an american. i think of myself first as an internationalist. my country, the country i was privileged to be born into, is the most powerful, the most wealthy country that has ever existed in the history of the world. we have more power than the
roman empire ever imagined. we have more money than anyone had ever dreamed of. we have more of everything. what we don't have is care for our own people. 20% of our population's children are living in poverty in the wealthiest country by such a norma's scale the -- such an enormous scale. the vast wealth disparity in that's not just unfortunate. that is criminal. it is absolutely criminal. brian: why? phyllis: why does it happen? it is because powerful lobbies, powerful corporations, economic power -- we can trace the history back in a post-world war ii period where most of the developed world had been devastated by the war. the u.s. had gold from the gold rush and it had not been attacked. we were the only one of the major powers that had not been
devastated by war. and, boy, did we take it vantage of it. brian: what would you have done back in 9/11, had you been the first woman president in the united states and you are faced with losing 3000 americans in that whole thing? what would you have done, do you think? phyllis: i wrote a book after 9/11 that was looking at u.s. foreign policy and what changed and what did it. it was called "before and after," looking at for policy before and after 9/11. and i wrote this speech that i thought george bush should have given on the night of september 11. he would start by saying we have been attacked in the worst attack on our soil in history. my first pledge is that not one more person anywhere will die as we search for justice. against those who carried out this roofing attack. and then i would have talked about how this means we were wrong about a number of things. we were wrong about the international criminal court. we desperately need such a court
and we now are going to commit ourselves to not only building that court, but strengthening it so it action has a capacity to respond to a horrific crime. brian: you have faith in the international criminal court? phyllis: i don't have five -- i don't have faith right now. it is horrifying to see -- all of us knew that the u.s. would not sign on. there was the biggest allegation there, more than 200 members of the u.s. delegation whose sole job it was to weaken every aspect of the court, its jurisdiction, the crimes that it was allowed to include, the punishments -- all of that was weakened by the united states, by contingency -- by convincing diplomats, if we we can adjust this love it, maybe we could get the u.s. to sign on. said, noynics among us of course they are not going to sign it. brian: why did you think that?
phyllis: this was in the middle of the clinton administration that claimed to be multilateralist, but it never was multilateralist. brian: are they evil? phyllis: they are not evil. economicallyarrow focused understanding of what it means to be pro-american, to keep americans safe means to keep the corporations safe, to keep the ceo pay high, keep the price of oil low. those are all american interests. feeding children who are hungry? that is not an american interest. that is a sideline. so if you understand that it's iner that is operative washington, you become pretty cynical. it is not about being evil. barack obama is certainly not evil. i think barack obama the man understands race and class in a profound way, more than any other president we have ever had. not only because he is the first african american president, although that is a huge part of it, but also because he is april its scholar. but what -- he is a brilliant
scholar. barack obama the man thinks is not that important as far as what barack obama the president is going to do. brian: in this video, they are not americans that we will be watching, but isis that you wrote this book about. this is one of the ways that they kill some of the people that they pick up. [video clip] [chanting]
brian: we stopped it, but these men die. phyllis: is horrifying. brian: you are president of the united states and you are in a democracy and people react. phyllis: you say to the world this is horrific and our obligation is to figure out how to stop this. if we are serious about stopping it, we have to understand why people would do this, why some people think it is a good thing, why they are attracting more recruits rather than fewer when they show these things, what is happening in our country and in the regions where there are troops operating, where cooperations are controlled, where we are buying oil.
what is happening that is creating this? if we don't understand that -- it is not about excusing it. for god's sakes, this has to be condemned. condemnation is only the beginning. about we are not serious understanding what causes it, we will never be serious about topping it because you cannot volunteer -- you cannot bomb terrorism out of existence. brian: what you think about the relationship with the saudi arabians? phyllis: it is always a mistake to talk about friendship. these are interests and they have not changed in a very long time. one of the things i talk about my book in dealing with the section of violence and isis, as terrific as these things are, these are not new. headings --used to used beheadings as capital punishment. killed,ames foley was had some prisoners
and the free syrian army had beheaded them. it is a huge problem. it is a cultural problem. there is a problem about people thinking there is a legitimacy prisoners.g we have to look at what causes is rather than just saying these people are animals and we are going to kill them. you can't kill them all. brian: do you have any idea what causes it? phyllis: i think it is a variety of things. it is easier to figure out what causes it when you look at people who are attracted to isis , who go and join us as oars -- or who support isis from the west. people in britain, people in belgium. these are countries that are sending large number's of people. i think it has to do with the sense in certain communities, second and third generation immigrant communities that they have never been respected. they have never been welcomed as full members of the society.
even those born and raised in the country, speak the language -- we see this in france. we see it here less. but it is a huge problem. it is linked to poverty but it is not only poverty. we see many wealthy young people with a lot of opportunities when we look at it from our standpoint who don't feel they belong, who don't feel the have an opportunity. here they see someone declaring the state. boy, i could go live in that state. as horrifying as these videos are -- and you have shown two of the worst of them, there are other videos, recruitment videos that show -- for example, there is one that chosen isis fighter and a families taking the children to an amusement park. they have pony rides and pink on candy. and it looks like the family is out for a lovely afternoon. one has opened a clinic for the
wives of isis fighters. these are not only people who can get a job. it is people who are feeling a profound sense of dislocation, disempowerment, dispossession, everythingon from about where they live or where they thought they should belong. brian: you thought about this a lot. you have done work with the u.n. and you have been overseas a lot. you are president. what do you do? you pick up the phone? what powered you have? phyllis: i think there is a fundamental reality that no president has been willing to say to the american people. we are not capable of responding in a way that will protect every horrific act and stop it from happening. isisn't necessarily stop from every horrific act of torture or act of beheadings. we have to look broader than that. we are a global power. we need to use our money differently. we need to stop supporting these
horrifying, absolutely -- absolute dictatorships, absolute moniker is -- absolute monarchies from any aspect of political life that the for is as if they were pack animals. we have to stop engaging with them as if they were our and not even treat them as our allies. of the things that george w. bush said is that we need to free up the people of iraq, created democracy so they can be as free as we are here. do you think every country in the world should be a democracy? phyllis: i think every country in the world should have the right to decide what kind of democracy they want. i don't think the people in iraq wanted u.s. occupation the skies does democracy. we heard from the colleague on that panel who was defending all the great gains of the u.s. occupation of iraq. one of the things he mentioned as that there was
constitution that was created with sunni and shia and turkoman and kurds all at the table. yeah, they were all at the table, but it was the u.s. academics who came from harvard and yell law school who -- and yale law school who were drafting nothing. and they were there to give political cover. we have to be clear about this. the people of iraq were not choosing their own constitution. brian: when you had saddam hussein and his sunni group, which was only 20% of the country, and the rest of them were shia. he controlled the whole thing. if you are shia, how do you get out of that? phyllis: there is a huge set of challenges. for one thing, it wasn't a situation where every shia was terribly up rust. there was discussed -- terribly oppressed. there was discrimination. there were sunnis and high-ranking positions. the sinister in syria, the other branch of the baath party. but those situations, it's up to people themselves to rise up. when the -- when the shia rose
up in 1990-1991, at that point george bush the first said, you know it, we had enough. we are pulling out. you shia rise up and you are on your own. and then those shia who resisted were slaughtered. it was a bloodbath. but it was really situation where people in their own country have to figure out how they are going to engage with the rest of the world to gain the solidarity, the support, the money -- maybe his fighters that they need. ofcan look at the origins the spanish civil war where people from this country, from all over the world, went to fight fascism in spain. but that was led by a tight hashes in spain. it wasn't an invasion by some other country on that side. the invasion was on the side of the brian: let's go to the floor of the united hates senate. i want you to listen to what senator john mccain is saying and give us your view of this.
senator mccain: have we have wely lost -- completely lost our sense of any moral caring and concern about thousands and thousands of people who are murdered, who are made refugees, who are dying as we speak? and the secretary of state says that we should not like our hair on fire. and what does the president had to say today? the president of the united states today says, well, well, it's climate change that we have to worry about. i'm worried about climate change. do we give a damn about what is happening in the streets of ramadi and the thousands of and the and the people innocent men, women and children who are dying and being executed and their bodies burned in the street? brian: he sounds a little bit like you. phyllis: please. brian: concerned about people and refugees. phyllis: this is the same
senator john mccain whose recipe for what to do about iran, for instance, was not to support a solution that is based on negotiations rather than war. his solution was the very clever bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb iran. it doesn't work. you can perhaps stop a certain action from taking place in one place. but then you are playing whack a mole. you are stopping it here and it pops up there. you stop in syria and it pops up in iran. you stop it in iraq and it pops up again over the border in syria. this is not a strategy for stopping the conditions that give rise to this. as long as people say, if you want to understand what these crazy people are doing, you must be supporting them. yuma -- you are as bad as they
are. you are never going to have a way out. we are going to be sending troops on the ground. we are going to be sending bombers. we are going to be sending drones to kill more and more people, creating more and more refugees. where was john mccain when the refugees were being created in iraq when 500,000 children under the age of five where dying because of the sanctions imposed by this country? and the best at madeleine --right it's a was, well, madeleine albright could say was, well, we think the price was worth it. brian: going to go back to vietnam history. a lot of your involvement in antiwar stuff started with vietnam. phyllis: absolutely. brian:. marcus raskin who invented the institute of policy studies. he is now 81 years old, participating in a panel discussion of people who are antiwar india nine -- war in
vietnam. [video clip] mr. raskin: there are certain things that we should be happy about. first of all, that we are all together. [applause] all, that you should always hire a good lawyer. [laughter] lawyer,on't have a good you are in trouble. is you need street heat. you need to be able to organize from the streets to get people into offices to hear what is going on in the street. so this is dialectic, if you will, in the relationship. and that dialectic becomes the
basis upon which real change can occur. not forever. never forever. not for 10,000 years. give it to generations and let it begin again. let it move a tiny bit further ahead. brian: as you know, he worked for george bundy who were advisers to kennedy and johnson. did not get along in the vietnam war. were you there that night? phyllis: i was. brian: phil donahue moderated it. phyllis: this is the panel of elders. they were each welcomed and introduced by one of the young activists of the today's antiwar movement. how do you think they all feel about what happened back when they protested the vietnam war, the outcome? phyllis: i think all of them felt that they were part of history. that that movement transformed
the world. as mark said, not forever. we are back at war now. but there was a sense of engagement. there was a sense of this as a global movement. and if we look further ahead, we can see the origins of the vietnam era also in the war against the -- the antiwar movement against iraq. if you look at the global 2003, and 2013 -- of according to the guinness book of world records, over 14 million people on that one day flooded the capitals of their country in 665 cities to say no to bush's war. it is reminiscent to the massive protests of the vietnam era. except now we can do it globally. we have the internet. that was organized in less than six weeks. brian: it didn't work. phyllis: it worked in a certain way. it did not work to stop the war. that was huge. we were not able to stop the
war. but we were able to do some thing else. we were able to raise the political price of going to war. so that in 2007, when george to goas icing very close to war against iran, his calculation was i think i won't. and i think part of the reason we were not at war with iran over the last five years and part of the reason we were able to have this extraordinary warory of diplomacy over with the iran nuclear deal is precisely because of the antiwar movement around vietnam, because 2003 when the world said no to war, because the price of going to war has become too high. that president obama is relying on drones is because he thinks he can do it with no one paying attention. he thinks that because the pilots are sitting outside their base in las vegas and they can go home to dinner every night that they won't get ptsd like
pilots do when they are dropping bombs on people that they see them below. it turns out he was wrong. they are getting ptsd because they are killing people and they know they are killing civilians. and i think the reason that president obama has emphasized the drone wars precisely because it comes at lesser cost than direct troops on the ground or troops in the sky. brian: i've heard you talk about your beginning at the university of california in santa barbara, your upbringing in california, your parents. i want to find out what it was that made your first angry about war. start with your parents. what were they like? phyllis: my parents were quite extreme area people. they were world war ii -- quite extraordinary people. they were world war ii air of people. hen he came back from war, put away his uniform and never talked about it until a few months before he died. my sister and i never really knew what he did in the war, where he was stationed.
he never talked about it and we never asked, what he saw, what he did. he was a salesman. never made much money. but he was working for my mothers father so i never worried that he would lose his friends'o many of my parents lost their jobs. my mother went back to work when my sister and i were in junior high school. they never got to go to college. they were already married when the war ended and they were about to have kids so they could not use the g.i. bill. my sister and i were the first the family to go to college. so we come from that background. zionist, a very active active in these items youth movements of israel was kind of my framework. but when i went to college, it was all about vietnam. i was just a bit too young to have really understood the civil rights movement. but i wasn't too young to understand vietnam. i was 17. i would to college. suddenly, that took over my life and i never looked back. brian:. when you were in college, there
was a draft. phyllis: right. brian: what impact that there was a draft impact you on vietnam because the people around you were worried about going into the service? i think abstractly, the question of the draft broadened the appeal of the antiwar movement. the fact that people were individually being drafted is huge. ironically, i don't think it played that much of a role in my own thinking mostly because the people around me who were college students had their deferments. that is where the whole class privilege came in. it was the college students who were not going to be drafted. then they went to graduate school. they could still wait and not be drafted yet. and then it was just a couple of years later that the draft ended. and suddenly, it was by the lottery. the draft did not end itself, but there was a lottery so it was determined differently. i think that for the creation of that movement, there is no doubt that the fact that americans, young american men were being
drafted plating huge part of it. and the race and class disparity, it was overwhelmingly young black and brown people from the ghettos of this country who were being drafted to fight in vietnam. when the war in iraq took off and we saw two genres of people joining the military in what we call the poverty draft, because it wasn't really voluntary, it was the lack of other options, lack of other jobs, lack of any way to get health care, the lack of any of money to go to college -- all of those things drove people into the military. but the dynamics were somewhat different. you didn't see disproportionately black and brown people. it was proportionate to the numbers in the population. what you saw was disproportionate people coming from tiny towns and rural areas across country where they had no options, where there were no jobs, no colleges, and scholarships. they had no options so they ended up in the military. brian: what would we have seen -- if i had seen you when you are 17 years old?
most i have seen you the angry as you become anti-vietnam? phyllis: it would have been the invasion of cambodia they galvanized students across the country. the chicago conspiracy trial was underway and we were outraged at the that. he invadedhen cambodia, a neutral country, is going in the war in this massive opposition to the war, claiming i have a secret plan to end the war -- yeah, it's called a solution. that was the epitome of the eight europe my generation of activists. brian: what did you do about it back then? phyllis: some people on my campus burned down the bank of america. that was a me, but level of anger that was happening all because, as one person said in a film made about it, "it was the biggest cap posting around." there was a growing understanding that these things were related. i had been working with the farmworkers, you know, helping raise money for the farmworker
boycott that cesar chavez was leading in the california valley. and we started to understand how that was linked to the war in vietnam, how those who had a new just in maintaining this war in vietnam with the same forces who had an interest in not paying farmworkers a living wage. -- the women'san movement and environmental movement began from that. all of these things serve to come together and it changed our lives. brian: i'm going to run a piece of video of a person you know well. he died in 2003. he is a palestinian by birth. you are a reform to do by birth. and then became an anti-zionist. we have to find out why. . . here's edwards i eat. edward: zionists have always been a problem for the designers project. and solutions have been perennial propose that minimize rather than solve the problem.
the official israeli policy, no matter what, whether ariel sharon uses the word occupation are not or whether or not he dismantles a rusty, unused tower -- tower or two, has always been to not recognize the palestinian people as equals that there -- have been violated all along by israel. trying to deal with its other concealed history, most israelis in what seems to be the majority of american jews have made every effort to deny, avoid or negate a palestinian reality. that is why there is no peace. brian: why did you come to be such an admirer of his -- of him? and why did you become a palestinian -- whatever,
protector or -- not a for terror -- not a protector. an anti-zionist? phyllis: he was a great mentor of mine in the last years of his life. this was probably a year and a half before he died. one of the things that i was always most proud of growing up jewish was the concern about ideas. ideas and challenging ideas, challenging each other. my father would challenge me with ideas and would push me and reading the newspaper and engaging about politics. not about israel. he never questioned israel. but for me, italy's québec to vietnam i had -- it always came back to vietnam. i had studied vietnam. i had but the middle east aside. when i came back to it several years later, i suddenly thought, you know, i think i might have in wrong about this israel thing. i went to my fathers library. i read the works of theodore
personnel, the father of modern zionism. i found that he wrote these letters begging for support from -- guess who -- cecil rhodes, the great british colonialist. saying to him, i know your interest is africa. mine is a little slice of arabia. your concern is within whisman. my concern is with -- with in which meant. my concern is with jews. both projects are something colonial. when i read that, i thought, jeez, i think i was wrong about this stuff. nobody told me this was a colonial project. i should looking for more information. that led me directly to edward said. edward lived here for many years. his family group. . he is very much -- his family grew up here. he is very much a product of the united states. the is where i came to see question of palestine as
fundamentally american. changed how i understood my own work rather than saying that i am in solidarity with the palestinian this or that. but to say that my job is to build a movement that can change the u.s. policy. u.s. policy is what enables israeli occupation, israeli apartheid policies. protection ofd by the united states, by the $1.3 billion that we give directly to the israeli military. that is what makes it possible for this very small country to emerge as such a world power. ofn we look at the influence great intellectuals, public intellectuals like edward said, published wade the on his -- way beyond his academic work, you see the linkage of issues. you see young palestinians who take up the call of the black lives matter. you see young people in ferguson
who went to palestine after the crisis in their own city to see what they could learn about building movements and ties of solidarity. so we are becoming internationalists, i think, in this country. i'm sorry that edward not live to see the incredible change in the jewish community, where you now have an organization like jewish lords for a piece on one side, a peck on the right, and the jewish community is becoming a much more near a community in that sense, that has a raft -- a left and right and center and there's fighting going on as opposed to having a claim, whether it was true or not, that there was only one opinion in the jewish community. brian: how hard has a pin for you to get what you believe in hard has it how been for you to get what you believe in published? phyllis: there was a time when the jewish defense league shot into my house in l.a. but that was a long time ago. that doesn't happen anymore. . the change has been so profound in this last decade.
something like president carter's book, "palestine, peas, not apartheid." he could never have gotten that book published 10 years ago. 20 years ago, he did. and that is because of the work we all did. it's not easy. i don't get into "the washington post," "the new york times." pitched much lately because you get demoralized after being turned down over and over. brian: what did they tell you? phyllis: plus of them don't say anything to you. you are right. i should pitch more actively. that is a good point. i shouldn't blame them for something they haven't done lately. upon what the new york times" has changed dramatically on what appears on their op-ed page. "the new york times" has changed dramatically on what appears on their op-ed page. the media in general is not
nearly as bad as it used to be. there are still problems of access. but you have an organization meu whose job it is to put palestinian voices in the mainstream u.s. press. they get into the pages of "the new york times" and "the washington post" and "time magazine." they need palestinian voices. during the war in gaza, in 2008-2 thousand nine, when israel tried very hard to keep the international press out of gaza, away from the story, it work. not least because everybody in gaza, when there was any electors, would power up their cell phones, other computer if they had one, to get their video and photographs out into the world. social media has changed everything. but "the new york times" had a full-time journalist based in gaza who was born and raised in gaza. a terrific young palestinian
woman who was there reporting for "the times." so all of that has changed profoundly. brian: who has published all your books? phyllis: interlink publishing in massachusetts. brian: who are they? phyllis: i used to say it is a small publisher. now it is medium-sized. they publish about 50 bucks a year. the founder is a palestinian -- 50 books a year. the fetters a palestinian who wishes amazing cook books and art books, travel books, a lot of fiction in translation from line wages all over the world. and books about the middle east. brian: and if folks want to read all the stuff that you do, where do they point to? phyllis: interlinkbidz.com. they can go to the website -- interlinkbooks.com. they can go to my website. what are the chances that, in your lifetime, the palace onion-israeli situation will be solved -- the
-israeli situation will be solved? phyllis: it takes a lot of political will. we don't see a lot of that in this country, but the world is changing. the arab spring, despite the defeats that followed it, have profoundly change that region. the rights of citizens is nabbing claimed by people in countries who never believed they had the right to citizenship. and i think it is going to come back. i think we are going to see stage 2 of the arab spring in all of the countries where it began and beyond. brian: you hear this a lot from politicians, that the united states is the greatest country in the history of the world. what would you say to that? phyllis: i would say the united states is the most powerful country in the history of the world. we haven't used that power for growing -- for good in the recent period. brian: "understanding isis and the new global war on terror, a primer."
phyllis bennis, thank you for joining us. phyllis: thank you, it has been a pleasure. announcer: your free transcript or to give us your comments about this program, visit us at qanda.org. programs are also available as c-span podcasts. announcer: follow the c-span cities tour as we visit communities across america. >> the idea is to take the programming for history television the on the beltway to produce pieces that are a little bit more visual, that provide a window into these cities than viewers would normally go to that have registries and a rich literary scene as well.
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